Utah Monolith :: adventurers who set out to visit the mysterious metal structure

  • Kevin Ponniah and Ashitha Nagesh
  • BBC News

56 minutes

Image source, David Surber

Caption,

David Surber was the first traveler to record his visit to the monolith.

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The first person took just 48 hours to arrive.

When local authorities in Utah, in the western United States, revealed the discovery of a gleaming metal structure deep within a desert Tuesday, they did not say exactly where it was.

They hoped that with that the amateur adventurers give up going out looking for it and not risk getting dangerously lost in the attempt.

But in reality, there was little chance that all curious travelers would follow this advice.

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And this Thursday the first images appeared on Instagram of people who posed triumphantly next to the monolith, happy to show the world that they were the first to arrive.

They were helped by the so-called internet detectives who in a few hours geolocated the structure with the help of Google Earth and posted the coordinates online.

“I decided to go there because I was drawn to the fact that this object has been in that place for five years, hidden in the wild,” explains David Surber, a former US Army infantry officer who was the first of several in visit the monolith.

The 33-year-old ex-soldier drove six hours into the night after finding a post on the social network Reddit that claimed to have the exact location.

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The find

State officials charged with protecting wildlife in the area spotted the object on November 18, while conducting a helicopter flyby over remote Mars-like terrain to count sheep.

Aerial view of 2015 and 2016

Image source, Google Earth

The Reddit user who posted the coordinates, Tim Slane, claimed that he tracked the trajectory of that helicopter flight until it went off the radar, a sign indicating that it may have landed.

At that point, he scanned the map for similar terrain features seen in the photos and official videos.

He focused on a canyon that seemed to fit and there he saw a different shadow, long and narrow.

It is not visible in satellite images from 2015, but already appears in those of October 2016, when the surrounding scrubland also appears to have been cleared.

“I knew that once the place went public, people would visit the area,” acknowledges Slane.

The Reddit user indicates that he received “some angry messages” for revealing the location.

“If I hadn’t located it, it is likely that someone else would have found it soon,” he says.

John McCracken

Image source, Getty Images

Caption,

The late artist John McCracken has been singled out as one of those possibly responsible for the monolith.

The arrival

David Surber, who lives in Utah, wasted no time announcing on Reddit to thousands of people who were following the mystery of the monolith heading to the site.

Along the way, he was bombarded with hundreds of messages and recommendations.

“Take a magnet in case there is a secret door!” Said one of them.

The traveler arrived in the early hours of Wednesday when the sky was still dark.

At first he was alone, marveling not only at the monolith but at the shooting stars.

Soon after, other adventurers began to appear, who had also found the coordinates on the internet.

Utah Location

Surber was delighted to report his find to Reddit.

“It was a nice escape from all the negativity we’ve experienced in 2020, “he says.

The mistery

Known the location, two questions remain: who put the structure there and why?

While many suggested, some candidly and most jokingly, that the monolith was planted by extraterrestrial visitors, the prevailing theory is that it is an as-yet unclaimed work of conceptual art.

Initially, experts hinted that it could have been an unknown work of the deceased John McCracken, known for his “plank” sculptures.

His advisor David Zwirner initially confirmed this hypothesis, but the gallery later retracted that statement, saying they believed it was another artist paying tribute to him. McCracken died in 2011.

Others pointed to artist Petecia Le Fawnhawk, who installs totemic sculptures in secret places in the desert and that he used to live and work in Utah.

However, the surrealist style designer told the magazine Artnet that, although he had the idea “to plant secret monuments in the desert”, he cannot claim this.

Sheep from the air

Image source, UTAH DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY

Caption,

The monolith was found by a flight of officers counting sheep with great horns.

Therefore, the creator of the monolith remains a mystery for now.

It is not uncommon for works of art to be installed in remote places as it is a form of creation that takes advantage of its natural environment.

One of the most famous examples of this is “The Field of Lightning” by Walter de Maria.

Its exact location is a closely guarded secret; all that is known is that it is in the high desert of western New Mexico.

Another example is the work of Martin Hill and Philippa Jones that was installed in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand, in 2009.

Andy Merritt, a British artist who creates public outdoor sculpture as part of the duo Something and Son, said that when he saw the news about the Utah monolith he thought it was the work of “an artist or a wealthy person who has fantasies around from [la película] ‘2001: a space odyssey’ “.

In that movie there is an imposing black monolith created by an invisible alien species.

“If you think about what they did in the middle of Utah, assuming it’s an artist, and put it in another location like a public square, it would be a lot less interesting. It’s the landscape itself that is really the focal point, “explains Merritt.

Travelers

The videos of the dozens, perhaps even hundreds of people, who have already visited the site, suggest a professional job.

Three large sheets of what appears to be stainless steel were welded together, hollow inside.

Whoever left the monolith there used sturdy tools to cut through the rock soil and embed the structure.

Monolith

Image source, UTAH DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY

Caption,

Utah authorities decided not to reveal the exact location of the monolith to prevent travelers from moving to the site and taking risks.

“From the beginning I was hoping that he was from another world … who wouldn’t want him to be? However, deep down, you know he was probably just a very patient artist or a fan of the movie 2001“reflects Surber, after his visiting trip.

In an interview Thursday, an information officer for the Utah Department of Public Safety told the BBC that while they are not encouraging anyone to visit the monolith, because it could be dangerous, there is nothing they can do to stop them.

That desert is a public area and no decision has been made to remove the totem.

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